American Judges Association


Date of this Version



Court Review, Volume 47, Issue 3, 68-75


Copyright © 2011 American Judges Association. Used by permission.


Athirteen-year-old boy sat in a room until a law-enforcement officer arrived. He asked the boy to follow him into another room where three more adults, including another law-enforcement officer, waited. The second lawenforcement officer then proceeded to question the boy about his involvement in a series of home robberies while the other adults encouraged the boy to tell the truth. The boy then implicated himself in the home robberies, acts for which he was later arrested. He claimed that as the officers did not read him his Miranda rights, his statement could not be used against him. At first glance, it would appear his privilege against self-incrimination had indeed been violated. It would have been, except for one fact: he was in school when the police interrogated him.

Miranda v. Arizona responded to concerns over widespread police coercion when interrogating suspects in custody. Taking notice of the “menacing” psychological interrogation tactics employed by law-enforcement officers in custodial interrogations, the Supreme Court crafted the ubiquitous Miranda warnings that devotees of procedural television “can recite . . . in their sleep.” The Court noted that “[e]ven without employing brutality . . . the very fact of custodial interrogation exacts a heavy toll on individual liberty and trades on the weakness of individuals,” and procedural safeguards are necessary to prevent the “[subjugation of] the individual to the will of his examiner.” The Court has thus far failed to mandate the provision of these crucial warnings to students during schoolhouse schoolhouse interrogations. But a recent case illustrates the importance of providing Miranda warnings to students.

This article will argue that interrogation by a law-enforcement official—including school resource officers—in a school setting is per se custodial interrogation and requires police to give the Miranda warnings before questioning students. It does not propose that all questioning of students that has possible criminal implications requires Miranda; questioning performed by school officials in their administrative capacity does not require the warnings. This article first reviews Miranda requirements and the present approach of applying Miranda to the school setting. Next, it reviews emerging doctrine on the difference between juveniles and adults in the criminal justice system. The article then argues that the growing phenomenon of school resource officers as law enforcement and power dynamics between school employees and students make schools custodial in nature. Finally, it conducts a case study of In re J.D.B. and concludes that denying Miranda rights to students interrogated at school contradicts the purpose behind Miranda. A per se custodial interrogation rule equitably resolves these concerns.